Ann O'Driscoll



Hello everyone. Paul Rixon contacted me ages ago asking me, as an ex-Page 6 contributor, to write an article for the website. I've finally got round to this after many months prevarication. I'm not sure if anyone will remember me, but here goes…

I got my Atari 130XE around 1988, having upgraded from a ZX Spectrum, because I wanted a "real" keyboard! I was hooked right from the start. The Atari world was a big mystery to me, what with tons of graphics modes, display lists, vertical blanks, player missile graphics, and so on - not to mention that little program in Page 6 called "Typo 3", which seemed to use pure magic to check the programs I typed in from the magazine.

To cut a long story short, I started taking notes about all of these things to try and build up an understanding of the computer and how it worked. I even wrote to Mark Hutchinson - I think it was some obscure question on IOCBs (Input Output Control Blocks, for those who've forgotten!). Mark not only answered my query, but he also very kindly sent me some games ("doggies" was one that I remember) which introduced me to the fascinating world of public domain. Another breakthrough came when I managed to buy a copy of "Mapping the Atari" while in Chester one summer, as there were never any Atari related books available here in Dublin.

At some stage, it all started to click together. I began sorting my notes into "how to program" articles and sending them in to Page 6. I hoped that maybe they might help other people who, like me, had found themselves in the Atari world without a comprehensive instruction manual. The first program published was called "Picmatics" in issue 41 (January 1990). This was a big surprise to me, as I had no idea beforehand that it was going to get printed! I had become a regular contributor by the middle of 1991, and altogether I had over 30 articles/programs published between then and 1998.

Overall, I got a great kick out of the whole thing. Some people wrote to me, asking me questions or just talking about computers. I learned a lot of stuff myself as I was going along, and it was really lovely being part of the "Page 6 Community", which I've always thought of as a nice place where people helped each other if they could.

So what have I being doing since? Well, I completed a degree in computers a couple of years ago with the Irish equivalent of the Open University. I certainly found the groundwork given by the Atari to be a great help when I was learning other programming languages like C and Prolog. I did the course purely out of interest and curiosity (plus the fact that, I'm so old that when I left school computer courses weren't available!). At the end of the day, I loved the whole thing so much that I started a Masters in Internet Systems course last year, so that's what keeps me busy at the moment.

So in a nutshell, I've been fooling around with computers for the last 20 years or so, and there are no indications that I'm going to stop any time soon. I was really sad when Page 6 folded up, because it was a great magazine and it had a nice ethos. But I suppose things can't stay the same for ever. Anyway, now this great website has been set up so all credit to Paul for all the hard work in keeping it going.

Ann O'Driscoll, January 2004